People, Places, and… Trouble by Buckskin

Traveling With Johnny Madrid

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Thanks to Cat for the beta – Traveling Challenge

Word Count – 1,503

Flames danced over the wood, drawing orange sparks into the velvety dark sky. Released from their birthplace, the brilliant tiny flashes quickly died in their ascent, leaving no trace of having been. The man sitting at the fire relaxed, cup of hot coffee in hand, leaned against the upturned saddle, and enjoyed the solitude; enjoyed just ‘being’. It was good to get away from the rigors of ranch life for a few days. Sitting at a fire always seemed to settle his mind, restore it to serenity and offer solace.

The soft, steady chomp of his horse lent comfort in knowing all was well around them. Who needed a watchdog when you had a smart, four-legged amigo like that one?

A smile tugged the corner of his mouth; he scrubbed a gloved hand across the three-day growth of beard that covered his handsome face, and he remembered back to a time when he had a dog, a little amigo mutt, that followed him wherever he went. But he was kid, then, an’ well, kids an’ mutts just kinda went together. Johnny Madrid Lancer had to chuckle as he thought about the mangy dog that stuck by him for weeks as they traveled from one border town to another.

And, damn, that dog protected him, too. The night he was chased by two drunken rowdies with evil on their minds, Johnny ran down that alley, his heart pounded wildly in his chest as he rounded the corner of the building. Lucky for him, lying on top of a pile of garbage was a broken ax handle. Johnny picked up that piece of wood and waited, hands trembling and sweaty, until the first borracho came within striking distance, then wham! He swung that handle for all he was worth and took out the pendejo’s knee while that mutt launched himself at the other idiot and tore a gash six inches long in the lower arm.

Johnny laughed as he remembered how the drunks, suddenly sober, leaned on each other, making a hasty retreat from that alley. The next day turned ugly for the dog when the man with ripped arm spied the mutt and shot it. No one thought much about the incident except for Johnny. It was a clean shot, and the dog didn’t suffer, but his friend, his protector, was gone. However, Johnny got even.

Two days later, while on another tear, the man with the bandaged arm sat in the saloon trying to win back the money he’d lost; outside, no one paid attention to the small mestizo boy as he led the horse around the building, mounted up and rode away. Fair trade. A horse for a dog.

Johnny picked up a piece of firewood and tossed it on the blaze, sending another swarm of sparks swirling into the night. His mind drifted and, like the sparks, it spun and twisted in bits of memory— memories of his life, the places he’d seen, the people he met, and more, the troubles he’d encountered.

“Hey, Barranca, think I learned anything from all that lifetime of scrappin’ for food tryin’ ta stay alive?” Johnny couldn’t help but smile, remembering his valiant struggle for survival. “Well, it didn’t do me any harm. I’m still here, ain’t I?” And, although the horse hadn’t raised the question, he snorted as if to say, “Yes, you are still here, but at what cost to you?” Johnny shrugged it off.

“Boy, I wish I woulda had you with me ta save my neck gettin’ away from them Rurales. They woulda been left in the dust an’ never been able ta catch up with us. That nag under me shoulda been put out ta pasture long before I got him, but then, there wasn’t much time ta pick an’ choose, ha! I was lucky ta get outta there with my hide!”

It had been close, too close, and Johnny had barely escaped with his life. He smiled, remembering how he’d taken cover in the rocks, and watched as the Rurales blundered on their way, past the small opening, then down a path that led to nowhere; into the mountains, through dense tree-covered foothills only to realize they’d lost their prey. By the time it occurred to them to turn around, Johnny was long gone.

Leaning against his saddle, he thought of the towns he rode through and the people, most of whom ignored him, wanting him gone, out of their town… until they needed his help. The sheriffs and marshals, the ‘law abiding’ men that assumed the worst instead of giving him a chance to explain why he was in their town, more often than not, just passing through, then told him to leave. His ‘kind’ wasn’t wanted…

But, there were those that had invited him to share what little food they had at their table, to come in out of the weather and get warm, offered a place in front of their fire to sleep, to rest before riding on. And usually, they were the people that had the least.

Johnny snorted at that thought. The folks that had the least offered the most. How many times had the poor people of Mexico sheltered him, given him a place to hide out, to mend in those volatile, critical times he was injured or sick? They had put themselves at considerable risk in helping Madrid. From Laredo to Yuma, Tijuana to San Diego, and everywhere in between, Johnny Madrid Lancer encountered friends and foes, was welcomed and turned away, was the hunted and hunter. There were good memories and horrific nightmares.

He smirked as he remembered the sheriff of Chula Vista that had locked him in jail, assuming Madrid was in on the murder of a local rancher, but upon finding Johnny had an alibi, he had to release him. Oh, it was a bright spot in Johnny’s day when the sheriff had to eat crow and ask for Johnny’s help in tracking the killer, and worse when Johnny brought the miscreant in, the sheriff’s reluctance in handing over the reward. Hell, Johnny didn’t want it and turned it over to the rancher’s widow.

Chula Vista was a pretty town with its ocean breezes, colorful flowers cascading over railings, and overflowing planters, and the sandy beaches where he spent one lusty night wrapped in the arms of… what was her name? Johnny’s mouth stretched into a lascivious grin as he thought about Consuelo and her talents.

“Oh, Barranca, what a night that was!” But then, Johnny left, headed south, and to the revolution that nearly ended his life. “Yup, that was close— starin’ down those rifle barrels, knowin’ it was the last minutes in this life,” Johnny huffed as he remembered the Pink thundering up in that wagon asking for Madrid… Yup, it was close…

Then came the journey north, to Lancer, and meeting the Old Man. But it wasn’t the journey that Johnny Madrid expected it to be. The Old Man wasn’t who Johnny expected him to be. Oh, he was a bastard those first few days, true enough, but once Pardee was out of the way and they all got to know one another, well, it seemed that Johnny got more than he anticipated. Instead of revenge for the lies he’d been told all his life, Madrid gained a family. Again Johnny smiled. A brother! ”Who woulda thought, Barranca, that Johnny Madrid had a brother? An’ one with a stupid lookin’ hat an’ a ruffled shirt, to boot!”

Barranca shook his head, the mane in a silver flurry haloed around his head.

“Yeah, me neither! An’ look at where we are now! A place to stay, warm bed, an’ food on the table… Funny when I think about it all…”

Again, Johnny watched the sparks float above as he listened to the night sounds and basked in the solitude. Tomorrow, he would be home, but tonight, tonight, he relished this private time and reflected on his past, his travels and those he met, and the incidents that were lessening. They had started to fade; Johnny was putting a distance to the threats in the past.

This was his history, his past, and now, his present. Had he come full circle? He was home, the place where he was born, and once he made up his mind to stay, it would probably be the place where he cashed in his chips. Johnny chuckled, and Barranca whinnied his equine humor. “What d’ya think, Barranca? This gonna be the last of my wanderin’ ways?” He’d traveled many miles, east to west, north to south, met many people, saw many places, and had his share of trouble. And now he was home. To stay.

In the morning, he would return to Lancer, where it all began and would be the place he called home… for as long as he lived.

January 2022

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PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT
Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment.  Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here.  You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email Buckskin directly.

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14 thoughts on “People, Places, and… Trouble by Buckskin

  1. I know I’m going to read this story many times. It says everything about Johnny and so much about his life in relatively few words. Don’t know how you do it but your stories are always a blessing to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Debra! Oh my! Thank you for the compliment! It’s always fun to hear the wanderings in my head of Johnny Madrid Lancer are enjoyed by others! Thank you for liking my Lancer World!

      Diana
      Buckskin

      Like

  2. I’ve just read this story for the second time and have noticed several more things I missed the first time. It’s a lovely story, with deep overtones. Johnny Madrid was a deep man. “The hunted and the hunter . . .” Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Viki! Johnny lived a long life in a very short amount of time. He had been many places, met many people, and had done many things. His travels took him to places unknown and his experiences were countless- There was much to contemplate while sitting at his campfire. Glad you liked the story and thank you for reading and commenting.

      Diana
      Buckskin

      Like

  3. Diana, this story was a great glimpse into Johnny’s mind. Reading it offered such a great visual experience of the campfire and Barranca. I felt like I might be sitting on a bedroll beside Johnny, listening as he tells his life’s stories. You have done a lovely job writing this description of Johnny by the campfire. I love it.

    Like

  4. I love the visualization – the picture of Johnny at the fire. Thanks for the wander through his thoughts and feelings and past. Home, at last, in every way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there, zoeytbear! Can’t beat spending time with Johnny Madrid Lancer around the fire! He’d been a lot of places, done a lot of things and met a lot of people… Madrid style! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Diana
      Buckskin

      Like

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